2014 International Rose of Tralee winner: Maria Walsh
Philadelphia Rose Maria Walsh has been named the 56th Rose of Tralee.
The newly crowned Rose emerged as a late bookies’ favourite last night and was at even money before she had ever even appeared on stage at The Dome.
And as surprised as Rose observers may have been, no one looked more shocked than the winner herself when her name was announced.
"Wow, I appreciate it - thank you very much," she said. Gesturing towards the crowd she added: "The calibre of Irish women is phenomenal. I mean look at these."
A native of Boston, Massachusetts, Maria (27) moved to Shrule in Co Mayo with her family 20 years ago but following her graduation in Journalism and Visual Media at Griffith College, moved to New York and later to Philadelphia.
Maria drew tears from family members during her interview when she remembered her cousin Teresa Molloy (19), one of four women killed in a crash on the N17 near Milltown, Co Galway in November 2009.
“It’s moments like this, like being in the Rose of Tralee, that make you really seize the day and appreciate life and take everything as it comes,” said Maria. “She has given me a lot of good luck to date, so I know she’s looking down on me and my family.”
And right up until the time the winner was announced at The Dome last night, three Roses were neck and neck with Carlow, Philadelphia and Abu Dhabi emerging as the bookies' choice, followed hotly by Laois and Dubai.
As it happened the first night: As it happened: Rose of Tralee
Ice buckets featured but it was the Roses that reigned supreme at the Rose of Tralee in The Dome last night.
Presenters past and present joined in the fun and even Ray D'Arcy, who presented the show for five years, interrupted his holiday in Spain to rise to the challenge set by Daithi O Se the previous night.
Ryan Tubridy dutifully rose to the occasion at the end of his radio show by having a bucket of ice water poured over his head and all to raise awareness, and money, for Motor Neuron Disease.
As it happened the second night: As it happened: Rose of Tralee
Even Marty Whelan who's 84 - according to his cheeky successor O Se - admirably rose to the occasion having a bucket of ice-water dumped on his head, following his nomination at The Dome.
But back on dry land on stage, Boston and New England Rose Michelle Prior got the show started.
O Se even came face to face with a possible relative, by marriage at least.
New Zealand's Lisa Bazola revealed her grandfather Michael Talty hailed from Milltown Malbay, Co Clare.
The name is shared by Daithi's own father-in-law who comes from that part of the country.
She said her Irish-born boyfriend of five years, Vinnie Schumacher, would be watching from home.
Cork Rose and camogie captain Anna Geary - a dead ringer for 2008 Rose Aoife Kelly - said she was more nervous about tripping on stage than she was about her upcoming All-Ireland semi-final clash on August 23.
Despite the fun and frolics of the previous night, viewership dropped from its 522,600 average last year.
The first half of Monday night's show was watched by 426,500 viewers while 514,000 tuned in for the second part after the news.